National award for IT

Friday 17 October 2014

Bedford College has been shortlisted for an AoC Beacon Award: The JISC Award for the Effective Use of Technology in FE.

The award submission is centred around the development and use of the Moodle GradeTracker and ePLP.

The system enables students to monitor their progress throughout courses, and, cut paperwork for teachers.

A suite of extensions to the Moodle eLearning system has proven so successful at Bedford College that it has won Government money to share the blueprint with other FE centres across the UK.

“Moodle is used by the majority of FE colleges and many universities, including the Open University. Because it has mainly been developed within the international Higher Education community, it lacks good tools to track progress on the complex vocational qualifications we deliver in colleges in the UK” explained Director of Information and Learning Technologies Roy Currie. 

The challenge was to empower students to see where they were doing well, or falling behind and why, during their two or three year courses. The solution was the Grade Tracker system added by Bedford College to the Moodle ‘software’. The results have been seen in ever improving student success rates as individuals monitor, in detail, their progress against their Personal Learning Plan (PLP) – another tool developed by the team.

The second aim was to help staff juggle differing paperwork for examining bodies for A Levels, City and Guilds and BTECs. The system means they can mark papers at home and load them on to the system which automatically updates the learners’ tracking grids and calculates the grades that they are likely to receive based on their performance.

Roy added: “We take an adventurous approach to IT here at Bedford College,”

“The team, especially Mark Chaney and Conn Warwicker, developed the Grade Tracker and PLP programmes, which is pioneering work.”

“The students love it – they get competitive about their performances and this boosts end results.”

“Staff like it because it saves them tedious administrative work and allows them to make comments to students including positive reinforcements when they do well. And that stays there on their PLP.”

“The management value the Reporting Dashboard as they can see at a glance, or as much detail as they wish, how the college is performing across all areas.”

“We demonstrated the work we had been doing at a number of regional and national eLearning events and the response was overwhelming. We have been inundated with requests from other colleges to be able to use our software. Over 50 other colleges have tried out our GradeTracker and we are helping quite a few to prepare to use it across their institutions in the coming year.”

“Ofsted were very excited as they had not seen anything quite like it  - especially the ability to drill down into the detail of attendance, punctuality, timetables, targets and tutoring. Our PLPs include not only expected examination results based on a student’s ability when they first join us – but aspirations – where we think they can do better. It’s there on the screen to remind students that that have done well and can do even better.”

Bedford College introduced Moodle in 2009 – it is a free/open source virtual learning environment developed by the worldwide educational community. Bedford College extended the system – not without “a huge amount of work” – but now is benefiting from that investment.

Roy Currie has been visiting and talking to FE teams across the UK including via the 157 Group, the top colleges in the UK, of which Bedford College is a founding member.

Initially Bedford College was given a £100,00 grant to share the Grade Tracker system with other colleges. Since then a further £60,000 has been made available to help colleges embed the system in their own IT networks.

Ian Pryce CBE, Principal and CEO of Bedford College says: “I am very proud that Bedford College has not only developed this system for the benefit of students in our own county but that it is now being shared with others across the UK.”

“Our Learning Technologies team is improving student learning across the country through this exciting project.”

Bedford College embraces technical and technology training across all subject levels and is a regional and national leader in specific areas of engineering education. It has recently announced its sponsorship of the University Technical College at Houghton Regis in the South of Bedfordshire and a Technical Academy in the North to open in September 2016.

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